Reconnecting with the natural world is crucial to the creation of an ecologically sustainable human society

Obesity. Television. Computer games. Human constructed city environments.  Buildings with no natural light or air flow. Cars. Food ready made, processed and wrapped in polystyrene. Increasing mental illness, asthma, cancer and other health conditions.  Increasing poverty, homelessness and less full time employment.  A “Gross Domestic Product” that shows our economic wealth rising every year and a “Genuine Progress Indicator” that shows our happiness and wellbeing dropping every year.  Local and global ecological systems showing serious signs of collapse.  Our children are growing up into this world, which is also a world which thinks that nature bites, hurts, is wet, is cold, stings and is ‘unsafe’. 

There is now a defined health condition in our young people called “Nature Deficit Disorder” which describes how children are spending less time outdoors, resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. Indeed, many young people with Attention Deficit Disorder lose the symptoms when in nature. The father of “Biodiversity” E.O Wilson coined the term “Biophilia,” which describes our innate desire to be near and our love of, nature after millions of years of evolution IN nature.  And we are in nature.  Dr Suzuki says that as human beings we are created out of the elements of the earth ...

"There is no environment 'out there' and we are 'over here' needing to manage our relationship with the environment ," he said.  "We are in the environment. We take a breath of air and some of that air stays in us. We are the environment. We cannot draw a line that marks where the air ends and I begin. There is no line. The air is stuck to us and circulating through our bodies. We are air. It is a part of us and it is in us. Air is not a vacuum or empty space but a physical substance. We are embedded in a matrix of air and if you are air and I am air then I am you, we are a part of this single layer that encompasses the planet. We are embedded in that air with the trees, the birds, the worms and the snakes, which are all a part of that web of living things held together by the atmosphere or the air. Every breath we take has millions of atoms that were once in the bodies of Joan of Arc and Jesus Christ. Every breath you take has millions of atoms that were in the bodies of dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Every breath you take will suffuse life forms as far as we can see into the future. So air, surely, deserves to be seen as a sacred substance.  We are air. Everything we do to air, we do to ourselves. Every one of us is at least 60% water by weight, we’re just a big blob of water with enough organic thickener added to keep from dribbling away on the floor.  When you take a drink of water you think it is London water.  But in reality the hydrological cycle cartwheels water around the planet and any drink you take, wherever you are, has [some] molecules from every ocean on the planet, the canopy of the Amazon, the steppes of Russia. We are water. Whatever we do to water we do to ourselves. We are the earth because every bit of our food was once alive. In North America over 95% of our food is grown on the land. We are the earth through the food that we consume. We are the earth, and whatever we do to it we do to ourselves. And we are fire because every bit of the energy in our bodies that we need to grow, move or reproduce is sunlight. Sunlight is captured by plants through photosynthesis and we then acquire it by eating the plants or the animals that eat the plants. When we burn that energy we release the sun’s energy back into ourselves. We are created by the four sacred elements, earth, air, fire and water and that is the way that we should frame our approach to ‘environmental problems’.”

We must reconnect. Humble ourselves a bit and realise that we are a part of some pretty amazing interdependant and interconnected and finite natural systems.  Reconnect personally: sit under a tree or by the river a bit. Take our kids to the bush and wonder at it. Let them jump in the muddy puddles and climb on the rocks. Reconnect professionally: we must relearn how to live on this planet using natures operating systems.  This means designing our products, services and way of life around reality (see Biomimicry above).

Environmental education is defined as being “About” the Environment, “For” the environment and “In” the environment.  The “In” may be the most important driver for change. We can be given a million pages of ‘sustainable living tips,’ hear constantly about global ecological breakdown, be bored or agitated by government policy wrangling, but unless we are in the natural world and feeling, engaging, valuing, wondering and imagining – we may not act. 

 "If we all grew our own vegetables I reckon we would not have our major environmental problems as we would all have our hands in the soil and be connected to the seasons and the natural rhythms of life.”

- Peter Cundell, Gardening Australia